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What’s Your Secret: Dealing With Aphasia

Aphasia – or experiencing the challenge of finding words or speaking, is a common prodrome for many migraineurs. A lot of us have stories of being in the midst of a conversation and suddenly falling silent, struggling to find the word that is on the tip of the tongue. We turn into human thesauruses, offering synonyms in a desperate attempt to jumpstart our brains. We begin a weird game of Pictionary with the person we are talking to – silently trying to demonstrate the word that is trapped inside.

As with all What’s Your Secret videos, we invite you to share your stories and any tips on how to manage this symptom in the comments section below. Let’s learn from one another!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • seslie
    1 year ago

    Thank you for helping me to see I’m not alone in this. Sadly, I usually try to discourage any conversation because I feel mentally incomplete. I recently had a migraine while seeing my Neurologist. He tried to ask about my vacation and I couldn’t even tell him where I went. He said that his wife experiences the same thing when she has a migraine. I am thankful to have an understanding doctor.
    Thank you for your video!

  • Holly Harding Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    So glad that this video helped you see that you are not alone in experiencing aphasia. It can be quite alarming to encounter this situation. It really can throw us off and make it hard to even say something simple like, “I’m having a hard time finding my words because of a migraine attack.”

    Good to hear your doctor is compassionate and understanding! Thanks for chiming in and please stay in touch.

  • KirstenNB
    1 year ago

    Wait! I’m not the only one who experiences this?

    When in conversation, I just tell people things like “I’m having trouble finding my words today”. Only those closest to me know that it is an ongoing problem and how much it gets in the way. Unfortunately, I have had experiences when I have lost words during presentations at work and during job interviews. In those situations, people don’t understand and/or don’t care.

    Your explanation of both aphasia and of migraines in the video are so well-done, that I am sharing it with my boss. She is fairly understanding of how poorly I feel and function when I have a migraine, but I honestly think that she thinks it’s “just a headache”. I’m hoping your video will help her to understand that this really is a disorder and that it’s something that I cannot control.
    Thanks so much for your video!

  • Holly Harding Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Greetings! So glad this video resonated with you and helped you see that you are not alone in experiencing aphasia.

    Also great that you feel you might be able to use it to educate your supervisor so that she may better understand what you’re up against.

    I have used this site in the same way for friends, family and coworkers (forwarding articles that resonate with me) to help them see that I’m not crazy or alone and rather that I’m part of a huge tapestry of millions of people who are managing this complex neurological disease every single day right along with me.

    So glad you’re here with us. Please stay in touch!

  • glassmind
    1 year ago

    I’ve been fortunate to have extraordinarily patient people who will wait as I speak slowly giving my mind time to find words and fomulate sentences. I also directly say, “Please use small words and speak slowly with short sentences in a soft voice. I am having a migraine, and it is hard to think right now.”

    Otherwise, I politely excuse myself. This is more common especially in text or phone. I simply say “Sorry, migraine. Talk to you on the other side.”

    Luckily, I am retired for a variety of medical reasons and rarely must do anything. So when migraine strikes, I can focus on getting better.

  • Holly Harding Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thank you so much for chiming in with these solutions for handling aphasia. I especially like the idea of proactively excusing yourself when necessary.

    You’ve got me wondering about carrying around a card that says “I’m having a migraine attack right now and it makes it hard for me to think and speak clearly” – because sometimes even just saying THAT can be difficult. I’m picturing showing that to the clerk at the grocery store who is trying to make conversation when I’m holding on for dear life just to check out so I can get home. I also think doing so could serve to educate the general public as to the far reaching side effects of migraine.

    Thanks for the idea!

  • Holly Harding Baddour moderator author
    12 months ago

    @glassmind– what a tremendous resource of which I’d never heard! I’m sure we could all make our own carry-along cards like these, but they are so well- tailored for migraine and other comorbid conditions– the site is like a treasure trove!

    Thank you very much for sharing this with the rest of us.

    Love it.

  • glassmind
    12 months ago

    Pocket cards are great! I have a few for other medical issues. Why I have waited to carry a migraine one, is silly!

    Thanks for the reminder.

    Cards can be found online at sites like

    Or male your own!

    I might make a badge or button, so I only need wear it, too! Lol

    Thanks again.

  • cindowski
    1 year ago


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